Cooking with Kids
Many fond childhood memories are of the time spent in my grandparent’s kitchens’. Whether it was only my grandparents or several family members converging in the kitchen, great memories have been built around cooking with family.
I am truly grateful for the time I was able to spend with my grandmothers’, watching, helping, and learning from them in the kitchen. I am the oldest of 12 grandchildren split among both sides of my family. I believe I was the luckiest grandchild because I was able to get the most active years from my family, specifically my grandparents. I saw my grandmother’s backyard when it was over an acre of fruits and vegetables we used in her kitchen. Today the house is gone and the garden no longer. I picked and cut apricots with my other grandmother that we later turned into jam, pies, bars, and dried treats. Today the orchards are no longer there; condos and strip malls stand in their place. I helped both women put together giant holiday feasts, cooking together for days at a time.
The way of the world today is at minimum a 40 hour work week apart from their families. Now factor in overtime, commutes, chores, errands, other family & personal commitments, after school activities; time spent at home with family is becoming less and less and basic life skills are being lost. As our daily commitment list grows, less and less valuable family time is spent together and we start to become… disconnected, living more like roommates than family; passing hellos in the hallway, meals eaten running out the door or driving in the car. We’ve become comfortable with convenience/ready to serve/on the go everything. Before we know it we’ve missed so many important moments because we didn’t stop and take the time. It is so easy to get caught up in the day to day and push aside what’s most important. Since having my son, I get a daily reminder of the importance my presence is to him and to my family.
I think back on my childhood memories that were created in the kitchen, at the table, and I realize I must try and provide these memories for my son and for the sake of my family. Cooking and enjoying a meal together can be the greatest time spent together, especially for children. Besides spending precious time together, cooking with kids presents them with so many learning opportunities. Cooking with kids helps in confidence building, developing independent skills, creative expression, reading development, social development, cultural exposure, and science concepts. They are learning about nutrition and developing a willingness to try new foods.
I realize not every evening can be spent cooking together given our tedious daily schedules but when an opportunity presents itself… take it! When my husband and I were both working full time and going to school full time, dinners together were few and far during the week. We took advantage of the weekend and turned menu planning, farmers market visits, and a whole day of cooking for the next week… into an adventure! I believe it brought us closer together… after 17 years, we still love cooking together and creating new things. Now that we have a child of our own, we’re trying to share those same adventures and learning experiences with him.
My son is not yet three (3) so having him help me in the kitchen takes time and patience. I share with him the fruits and vegetables, letting him see, touch, and smell each item. He helps to measure, pour, and stir ingredients. Some foods he loves immediately and wants to put it in his mouth right away and some foods take a lot of time. According to his pediatrician, children need to be exposed to a new food as many as 10 to 15 times before they are willing to try it. Forcing them will only attach a negative stigma to eating that particular food… or meal time in general. Since my son was able to eat solid foods, we’ve given him every organic fruit and vegetable you can think of (when in season) and every type of pastured grass fed organic meat that is available in our area.
I love cooking with kids because they are so curious. They see and smell to the fullest. Everything is new and interesting. A a while ago a good friend came to visit with her beautiful daughter, who was 7 years old at the time. The agenda for the day was food food food! We made an apple pie and canned some blueberry lemon jam. For the pie, I had her daughter help measure the ingredients for the crust and peel and core the apples. For the jam, she helped cook the berries (with my supervision). She had so many questions and she wanted to touch, smell, and taste everything she handled that day.
By spending time with her that day, we were able to help her develop new skills, try new foods she’d never tried before, and she got to do it all while spending time with her mom… laughing, playing, joking… having fun!
Take time and enjoy cooking with kids – it is the most valuable time you can spend with them.
I’ve been on a quest to bring back basic skills into my family’s lifestyle. Spending the time to cook a whole meal together, from scratch, is just the first step of many. I hope my son will carry these memories with him forever and that he’ll be able to pass them on to his own children…
Cooking with Children Resources:
MommyMe – The Wonder Years – I believe the mom of this blog did a wonderful job of breaking down the process… especially knowing that cooking with kids will also bring a lot of messes and possibly a little chaos. With some basic preparation and a little patience, you’re ready to roll!
Benefits of Cooking with your Children (webmd.com):
■ Reducing the number of meals eaten outside the home
■ Having structured times for family meals
■ Offering healthier, low-calorie foods
■ Involving children in meal planning, shopping, and food preparation.
■ Encourages kids to try healthy foods
■ Kids feel like they are accomplishing something and contributing to the family
■ Kids are more likely to sit down to a family meal when they helped prepare it
■ Parents get to spend quality time with their kids
■ Kids aren’t spending time in front of the TV or computer while they’re cooking
■ Kids generally aren’t eating junk food when they’re cooking a meal at home.
■ Learning to cook is a skill your children can use for the rest of their lives
■ Kids who learn to eat well may be more likely to eat healthfully as adults
■ Positive cooking experiences can help build self-confidence